Magic bars (also known as 7-layer bars) have always been one of my favorite desserts. The combination of coconut, chocolate, walnuts, and the caramelized sweetened condensed milk all on a graham cracker crust just screams decadent. I have fond memories as a kid eating them at every church potluck.
Since adapting to a plant-based diet, I’ve tried all kinds of new vegan recipes, but I knew that desserts would present a new and interesting challenge. Would it be possible to veganize such a unique dessert like magic bars? Is there a version of dairy-free sweetened condensed milk?
After doing some research, I was able to find that you could make your own homemade dairy-free sweetened condensed milk using coconut milk! On the blog, Detoxinista, I found this recipe. This recipe uses honey, and since honey is not technically vegan (because of the bees used to make it), I substituted agave nectar, which is a sugary syrup from the agave plant. It has a similar consistency to honey and makes a great substitute!
starting the process of making the dairy-free condensed milk, it ended up working out well!
In terms of the rest of the ingredients, I decided to make some of my own adaptations to All Recipes’ “Seven Layer Bars Recipe” in order to come up with the vegan version. These bars generally have butterscotch chips and/or peanut butter chips as well, but I decided to skip those because it would be nearly impossible to get a vegan version of those.
The bars before adding the condensed milk
Here’s what I came up with for the recipe:
Vegan Magic Bars
- 1 1/2 cup Graham Crackers (Nabisco Original and Keebler Original brands are vegan)
- 1/2 cup melted Earth Balance buttery spread
- 3/4 cup crushed walnuts
- 3/4 cup Trader Joe’s semi-sweet chocolate chips (these are surprisingly vegan!)
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
- Detoxonista’s sweetened condensed milk
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8×8 inch baking dish with parchment paper and set aside.
- Prepare the sweetened condensed milk recipe above.
- Break the graham crackers into smaller chunks and place in a food processor and pulse until they’ve crumbled completely. *Note: If you’re too lazy or don’t own a food processor, you can buy graham crackers already crumbled.
- Add crumbs to melted Earth Balance spread in a large mixing bowl. Use the bottom of a pint glass to press mixture firmly into bottom of baking dish.
- Add a layer of chopped walnuts on top of crumbs and distribute evenly. Repeat with chocolate chips, then coconut. Carefully drizzle the condensed milk (you can add as much or as little as you want). You may want to use a rubber spatula to distribute if you need to spread out some of the condensed milk.
- Bake for 30 minutes, and allow to cool completely before slicing the bars.
Pressing the crumb mixture into the pan!
These bars ended up tasting absolutely perfect! I’ll admit that they came out a little bit toasty because my oven always over-does things, I even set the temp to 300 instead of 325! (The picture at the way top of my post is a second batch I made using a different oven :)) But they ended up gooey and yummy. I was a little nervous about the dairy-free sweetened condensed milk, which used coconut milk. I was afraid I wouldn’t end up getting the same caramel-like taste, but I really couldn’t tell much of a difference from the dairy version. I highly recommend this recipe to anyone, vegan or non vegan, especially to someone who may be lactose intolerant!